The British sculptor Tony Cragg is one of the most acclaimed artists of his generation. Born in Liverpool in 1949 and educated at British art schools, he has lived nearly half his life in Germany, with his home and studio in Wuppertal since 1977 and a teaching post at the art academy in Dusseldorf.
Tony Cragg's sculptures can largely be organised into groups according to the different materials from which they are made: stone, clay, bronze, glass, different synthetic materials like polystyrene, carbon- or glass-fibre. His sensitivity to different materials is and has been the starting point for his work. To a great extent, his choice of material has determined the form, which a sculpture has taken on. Different materials give different emotional experiences, both for the artist and for us as observers. Tony Cragg points out that the words material and materia originate from the Latin word mater mother. Like a mother, the material gives birth to the thought; the different properties of a material give rise to the idea, which produces the form.
In the years around 1980, Tony Cragg became acclaimed for his sculptures and pictures which consisted of things he found, fragments of furniture, household objects of different materials, plastic toys, etc., which were often chosen for their colour, and which, laid out on the floor or fixed to a wall, together created and portrayed forms recognisable from everyday life.
The exhibition at Malmb konsthall includes a series of drawings, which allow us to understand how Cragg created his works. Sometimes these drawings functioned as blueprints for the sculptures. But above all, the drawings reveal how the sculptures arose just as much out of their material, and from the process which that demands, as they arose from conscious planning and thought.
The sculptures from the latest decade may appear "abstract" but they can still evoke feelings, ideas, fantasies and allusions to something we believe we have seen and experienced before. According to Cragg himself, his sculptures are "fictional entiteis where decisions are made entirely on an aesthetic basis," and, somewhat contradictorily: "The material finds itself in a new form and the sculptor finds himself with new content and a new meaning." It would certainly be possible to refine this description of the sculptural creative process, but in essence the sculptor invests his skill in the material and is himself enriched with new knowledge. And we, the viewers, are offered new experiences and ideas by the sculpture if we sufficiently actively and passionately seek to follow the artist in his work. A dialogue, effected by the sculpture, arises between the artist and the observer.
In those sculptures exhibited in Malmo Konsthall, and which largely date from the last four years, there is a new transparency, visual delicacy and sensitivity. The restless energy which has long characterised Tony Cragg's work is starting to mellow, and features of timeless playfulness are emerging. Even more than before, this playfulness is something which invites us to share a dialogue with the artist.